Wash One Another’s Feet
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13: 1-5.
There are some things that should be brought out from the above paragraph; if for no other reason than to give a better view of what is happening here.
It states here that the Lord knew that His hour had come; this reference is to the hour that He is to be given as a sacrifice for sin. The word hour is used in this way some seven times both by the Lord and in the narrative. For instance His hour is mentioned in John 8: 20 in this manner, “These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.” The Lord would use the term this way, “…The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” John 12: 23b.
The Greek word translated hour, is used throughout the New Testament and can mean some of the same things as our own word hour, that is to say that along with other things, it can mean sixty minutes or it can mean a period of time which may extend over more than an hour. As the usage in the sentence determines what an hour means in English, so we can determine what it means in Scripture, which is in this case, an extended period of time.
Also noted here is that Jesus knew that His hour had arrived and that He was going to God the Father. It states in verse 3 that He knew that God had given all things into His hands, telling us that God had seen the life of Christ as a success. Again as in verse 1 we are told that Jesus was returning to the Father, “Jesus knowing…and that He had come from God and was going to God…” indicating that He knew all along that He was God the Son. While His knowledge of who He was is shown throughout the gospels, many try to say that He did not know that He was God or the Son of God until He was twelve or at some other period in His life, again, this is not consistent with what the Lord says of Himself at various times.
It is also written in our text and later on that the devil had put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus and that the Lord knew it; still He washed his feet. “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” Luke 6: 27-28. This is a witness to the Lord’s integrity in that He not only tells what is right, but does the very same things in His own life.
Having received all things from God and knowing that He was to return to the Father and sit in glory next to Him, Jesus still girded Himself with a towel and taking the place of a servant commenced to wash the disciples’ feet.
Now this is an unexpected turn, it is not part of any ritual, the Lord has not done anything like this before, and the disciples are blind-sided by it. In fact it was a practice back then to have a servant wash the feet of guests in the house, or water was provided for the guest to wash his own feet, this being due to the fact that sandals were worn and the dust of the day needed to be washed away.
While there is more than one lesson to be learned in these passages, a very significant one is that Jesus is identifying Himself with the common man, even to the point of washing the feet of His creatures, common men, as a humble servant. Speaking of Jesus, Scripture says, “…made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2: 7-8.
For this reason many commentators will speak of the Lord’s days on earth as the days of His humiliation. Days which ended in the complete horror of crucifixion and being reckoned as nothing more than a common criminal; even today His name is dragged through the mud and treated profanely, a name which deserves to be treated with respect both by friend and enemy alike.
“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, Praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its going down the Lord’s name is to be praised. The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” Psalm 113: 1-6.
By way of history this psalm is one of the Hallel psalms which were sung at the Passover feast as well as a number of other feasts. These Hallel psalms consisted of Psalm 113 through 118, and this one is possibly one of those sung at the Passover mentioned here in John 13. It is my feeling that this psalm is not only speaking of God as the high and holy One stooping to gaze into His creation in the heavens and the earth but it also shows the Lord Jesus sitting in a low place on earth, as He is pictured in this foot washing scene. Can you see the contrast here, the Creator of everything bending down to look into His creation and then coming to earth as the Son of Man and serving? The end of this psalm is too lovely to leave out, so here is the rest.
“He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes – with the princes of His people. He grants the barren woman a home, like a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 113: 7-9.
“Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, ‘You are not all clean.’” John 13: 6-11.
Peter’s not just my feet but my head and hands also response actually allows the Lord to explain what is going on here. First He explains that once a person has bathed it is not necessary to bathe again but rather to wash the dust off of their feet. He then states that they are already clean, but not all of them, referring to Judas Iscariot; the meaning is this, the disciples, having accepting the Lord Jesus as Messiah are cleansed from their sin, they have been bathed. Judas Iscariot on the other hand never accepted the Lord Jesus as savior and consequently had never been bathed and was still in his sin, as a result the foot washing did nothing but clean the dirt off of his feet.
“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.’” John 13: 12-15.
The first lesson here then is that once a person has accepted Christ as his savior, having been cleansed of sin, there is no more need to be cleansed again. The feet however represent the walk of the Christian and they do get dirty, it is necessary to wash ones feet when it is seen that they have gotten dirty. It is done in this manner, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1: 9. Simply put, when the Christian realizes that they have committed some sin, they are to go to God and to confess to Him that they have sinned, in doing so God forgives them of that sin and works in their heart to help them to cease doing whatever wrong that is. It must be emphasized that the Christian cannot lose his or her salvation but they can let sin come between them and their communion with God; this is a great loss and must be avoided at all costs.
Quite often a Christian friend may see that a person is headed down the wrong road, they may make an effort to help their brother in Christ turn away from disaster. Older or mature Christians may also be involved in teaching or mentoring others, and by this showing them how to avoid sinful situations. As Christ taught and cared for His disciples, He expects us to do the same; “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6: 1-2.
Throughout the church age many sects have taken foot washing literally and at the time of Passover in particular have reenacted this ritual; whether it is the Pope, a clergyman, or the so-called laity, many have seen it as a command from the Lord to do so, and in doing so have missed the real meaning of what Christ said. Whenever something like this is taken and enacted ritually, it loses its meaning and becomes a false humility.
Years ago there was a newspaper article about a man who was in some sort of crisis, whether it was health or family related is unknown, but the upshot was that he promised God that if He would help him, he would crawl down the aisle of his church on his knees. God fixed the man’s problem and true to his word the following Sunday he crawled down the aisle.
Admittedly I do not have the whole story, so I may be way off base, still the question is, how did the newspaper learn of this incident, did the churchgoers know this was going to happen, was it explained to all beforehand? The only person who needed to know is the priest so he would permit it. If nothing was said, then as he crawled down the aisle, those in the pews would think to themselves, what is this nut case up to? However if all knew what was going on, they would think, how noble! Whether it was his intention or not, who was glorified here, the man or God?
The Lord related a parable that expands this thought a bit more.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18: 10-14.
It is this sense of caring for one another that the Lord is teaching us, along with an attitude of humility, something that gets lost the higher up some folks go in church hierarchy. By washing the disciple’s feet the Lord effectively put a ceiling on the church, telling them that they should treat each other with respect, not condescension.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.” John 13: 16.
All of us have a tendency to think of ourselves as pretty hot stuff when we have gained a promotion or have earned some letters behind our name from college. Worse still many may gain a real following by preaching the word of God to people who are drawn to the word and the favor God has given us before them; then in time we start to believe it was our own charisma that brought them to us. Once the devil gets a foothold in this manner, we are destined to fall. How far that is depends on whether we return to the Lord in humility or go on believing our own press. It must be remembered that the Lord washed folk’s feet; we can be no greater than the master.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12: 3.
“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” John 13: 17-20.
The Christian carries a precious message concerning Christ Himself, and if Christ is received God the Father is received; it must be carried with respect for God Himself and delivered with love and humility.
“Whatever may your virtues be, oh cultivate humility; be unobtrusive, meek, retired; seek to be useful, not admired.”
Wash One Another’s Feet taken from blog.godisrevealed.com
Scripture taken from the New King James version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.